I didn’t get into the Communication field because I’m a numbers person. Words are my tools, not pixels or bytes or zeros and ones. Pie charts are interesting – when someone else explains them. Even spreadsheets make me uneasy. I’d rather write a narrative. But the Ford Foundation’s Change By Design conference I attended in New York City in late June may well have been a game-changer for me. For the first time I could really see how facts and figures – when put into the hands of designers, researchers, artists and statisticians– can pack a dramatic punch large enough to have a room full of foundation veterans oohhing and aahhing.
The event featured leaders in the fields of design, social innovation, art, and journalism, all of whom are thinking creatively about digital storytelling. During the day-long event presenters shared case studies on topics ranging from experiential data visualization to data for news reporting to collaborative mapping. It was a day of inspiration more than it was a day of skill-building. It was a profound shift in your thinking kind of day. I left feeling like I’d seen the future of social change. And the future, let me just say, is information design.
As the Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Public Life Project, Lee Rainie routinely stays on top of how the internet is affecting the lives of Americans. Recently, Rainie shared his thoughts with the Communications Network about how the changes being wrought by the internet on society are also causing foundations to rethink and retool how they communicate with external audiences.